The Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos welcomes the exhibition dedicated to Belgian artist Francis Alÿs (Antwerp, Belgium, 1959). The starting point of the exhibition is the work Fabiola (1885), whose whereabouts are unknown since the beginning of the 20th century, by the French painter and academic Jean-Jacques Henner. It looks at the idealised portrait based on the hagiography of the saint published one year earlier by a British cardenal and translated into ten languages, which aslo gave rise to the worship of the saint, thus establishing her “patron image”.
After studying engineering and architecture in Belgium and Venice, at the end of the Eighties Alÿs moved to Mexico City, one of the biggest, bustling metropolises on the planet, and the paradigmatic scene for contemporary urban culture the artist lived and breathed like a huge open-air laboratory. His work can be seen as an eclectic compendium of painting, photography, video and performance and Alÿs has participated in numerous collective exhibitions, namely NowHere in the Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark (1996) and Antechamber, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1997). Noteworthy individual exhibitions include those in the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City (1997) and Francis Alÿs. El profeta y la mosca. Obra pictórica 1992-2002 held in the Museo Reina Sofía in 2003.
The exhibition Fabiola is made up of over three hundred works based exclusively on the image of Saint Fabiola in profile wearing a red mantle. It also belongs to the artist's collection. Fabiola was a rich patrician lady that lived in Rome in the 4th century. After the death of her second husband, and under the influence of Saint Jerome, she gave up all earthly pleasures and decided to devote her life to the practice of Christian asceticism and charitable work, which included, among many other projects, erecting a hospital for the sick and the pilgrims in Rome.
Over the years, Alÿs has collected many works based on the figure of this saint, in highly diverse formats and techniques, by different artists - the majority enthusiasts - leading him to visit countless street markets and antique shops around the world. His work represents a process of research into the power of the image that represents an icon, whilst also granting creative validity to anonymous works, something inherent in his own oeuvre since collecting also forms a large part of his own work.
Hispanic Society of America, New York (September 20, 2007 - April 6, 2008); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (September 7, 2008 - March 29, 2009); National Portrait Gallery, London (May 2 - September 20, 2009)